08 Jul Voice, treaty, truth: Celebrating our connection to culture this NAIDOC Week
This week, as part of NAIDOC Week, we’re celebrating the rich history, culture and valuable achievements – as well as acknowledging the continuing challenges – associated with Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander story.
Held from July 7-14, this year’s NAIDOC theme is: Voice. Treaty. Truth. Let’s work together for a shared future.
This shared future is one where the true story of colonisation is acknowledged. It is one where Aboriginal practices, skills and innovations – from agricultural, scientific, technical, ecological, biodiversity and medicinal fields – are recognised and valued. And it is one where Aboriginal voice is given the position of authority it deserves.
Raising our Aboriginal voice at Uniting
The significance of Aboriginal voice is something we’ve been giving a lot of attention to in recent months as we developed and launched out new Reconciliation Action Plan, which places a strong focus on raising the voices of our Aboriginal team members and communities.
During a Uniting Aboriginal staff gathering, we heard from a number of Aboriginal leaders, including Bidjara man, Owen Stanley, who works in family services for Uniting.
Owen shared insights into the significance of Aboriginal voice and language for the continuation of culture, reminding us that – of the 250 unique Aboriginal languages and over 800 dialects being spoken at the time of European invasion – less than 70 are still being practiced today.
Owen says that efforts to prevent the passing on of language was a deliberate political tool used to wipe out culture. “If you lose your language, you lose your culture – you lose identity,” he says.
Owen also expresses his sadness at missing out on the chance to learn Bidjara because his parents and grandparents were actively prevented from passing on this knowledge. “I know words, but I can’t speak fluent Bidjara,” he reflects.
“It’s pretty difficult to bring back the languages that have been lost. My grandmother was one of the last 20 Bidjara elders who died with the language. So, my own language group, they’re trying to revive that one… and they’re trying to revive languages throughout Australia.”
Walking in another’s shoes
Owen says the Reconciliation Action Plan is an important step in the Uniting story. “It’s really difficult for non-Aboriginal people to understand what Aboriginal people are going through if you don’t have your feet in their shoes,” he says.
“So, it is quite crucial and important for Uniting people to understand the background and history – and the demise of the culture and demise of the language.”
“That’s why we’re looking at ensuring cultural learning is engaged – because we’re an organisation that works closely with a large population of Aboriginal people.
“My advice to non-Aboriginal people is to learn everything you can about Aboriginal culture.”
Gavin Mate, Head of Aboriginal Service Development agrees. “The Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) describes the actions we will take to ensure the ongoing recognition and inclusion of our Aboriginal voice in all our work, services and community engagement.”
“The importance of NAIDOC Week is identified in our RAP with key deliverables related to hosting and supporting NAIDOC Week activities. We encourage everyone to participate in the range of events and activities planned.”
Get in touch
For more information about how Uniting is working to raise Aboriginal voice, call 1800 864 846 or email us. Visit our careers page to discover our latest job opportunities or to find about more about working for Uniting.
Uniting, acknowledges the sovereignty of Australia’s First Peoples. We apologise for any actions of our organisation that may have contributed to the disempowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and resulted in the loss of family, land and cultural identity.